It’s mid-day, and the walls of your cubicle are shaking from the power of thousands of men and women immersed in an intense battle: the battle to win the chair of CEO. Some of these men and women are in management positions, others are from the marketing department, and others are from rivaling companies. What will you choose to do – go out and fight for yourself, or hide behind those cubicle walls?
Unless you’ve been living under a very dark and heavy rock, you may have heard of an HBO series called Game of Thrones. I won’t even attempt to go into the details of the story here (trust me, even the regular watchers barely know what’s going on half of the time), but all in all, it is about the story of seven kingdoms vying for the Iron Throne. Ultimate power. Ultimate respect. And, most likely, ultimate drama and bloodshed. That’s how things roll in the land of Westeros.
Whether you watch the series or not, the super confusing and action-packed story is brimming with as many life lessons as it is overzealous fans. In an attempt to convert the many hours that I’ve spent watching this addictive show into something productive, I have made a list of the top three business lessons that one can learn from watching Game of Thrones. Please note that there may be spoilers.
Lesson One: Sometimes, you have to take one for the team.
Game of Thrones: The awful Cersei Lannister and her dwarf brother, Tyrion Lannister, meet with their father only to learn that he has devised a strategic move for their house which involves both of them marrying individuals that they could care less about. After much protestation, they give in because they know that these marriages will lead them closer to ultimate power.
Takeaway: There will always be tasks that you are faced with that you may not necessarily want to do. Despite this, you know that the actions you take and the quality of work that you put in will benefit your company in the long-run. Keep the overall goal of helping the company to succeed, which in turn will help you to succeed, in mind when facing these challenges.
Lesson Two: Acting in your best interest is okay sometimes, but always know that there may be repercussions.
Game of Thrones: Robb Stark, King in the North, lead his army into war and managed to get Lord Walder Frey on his side after agreeing to marry one of his daughters. During the battles that come, however, he falls in love with a medic named Talisa and decides much against the best interests of his mother, Catelyn, to marry her instead. Robb, his mother, Talisa and almost anyone related to House Stark are killed due to Robb’s selfish actions by Lord Walder Frey as an act of rebellion several episodes later.
Takeaway: It’s extremely easy to act in the moment and do what you feel is best for you. Acting selfishly in your position and not taking other co-workers and the company into respect may not hurt you immediately, but it can in the long-run. Always remember that you cannot cross a bridge again after you have burned it. When the opportunity to do something in your best interest does occur, take the time to think through any potential consequences and if what you are doing will truly help you out later on.
Lesson Three: It takes courage and kindness to be a respected leader.
Game of Thrones: Daenarys Targaryan is a fourteen year-old girl who was forced into a marriage, became queen of her husband’s land, mourned the loss of her husband after a mysterious death and oh yeah – she’s the mother of dragons. In addition to this one particularly awesome fact, she has already raided several kingdoms and has warmed the hearts of the slaves in these lands enough to have them join her own personal army. Daenarys is fierce because she wants a chance to rule the Iron Throne in a way that she thinks is best, and she moves toward that goal with both tenacity and a kind spirit.
Takeaway: I think that Daenarys’ character is the kind that is often hard to find in the business world. Often we assume that, in order to be successful, a person must be cold hearted and selfish. Instead, current and aspiring leaders should look to Daenarys and her strong but kind personality for inspiration. Ultimately, being ruthless will scare enough competitors and create enough enemies that you may, eventually, rise to the top. But will your employees respect you? Will they feel comfortable discussing problems that may arise – problems that, if ignored, may damage the company – or will they hide and hope that the problems go away? A strong and successful leader must hold his or her ground, exude confidence but also be approachable and have the best interests of the employees at heart.
Game of Thrones has plenty of characters and trust me, I could write a whole novel on the business lessons that we could learn from each and every single one. The beauty of a well-written television show or a great book is that the characters are all unique and different. We are able to see these characters up close – both their flaws and their strengths – and we are able to see a part of them in ourselves. So, next time you stop to watch your favorite show, put it into a different perspective: what would these characters be like in your office and, more importantly, what lessons can we learn from them? The answers may not be as obvious as flying dragons or magical swords, but they are there, lurking from every channel.